Silicon Valley is more than a hundred miles from Sacramento, but decisions made in the state capitol profoundly impact the ability of businesses here — and all across California — to succeed.
That’s why the current debate in Sacramento over the future of our cap-and-trade program is so important. The upcoming vote will either advance a program that has helped make our region a clean-tech leader, or risk its demise and cast a shadow over our economic future.
The Silicon Valley Leadership Group represents almost 400 businesses. Collectively, our members have created almost one-third of the private-sector jobs in Silicon Valley and contribute more than $3 trillion to the economy worldwide. Our membership has long been supportive of the state’s leading climate and clean energy laws, including the landmark 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32), which identified cap-and-trade as a key tool in the fight against global warming.
The program is the most effective way to address global warming as it creates a financial incentive for reducing pollution and a profit motive for developing clean technologies. This is the kind of leading-edge policy the Golden State has long been known for.
As a result, we have shown it’s possible to decouple economic growth from energy consumption, all while clean energy leads the way as the fastest growing business sector.
While we are on target to reach our pollution reduction goals, we still have a long way to go. Leading on climate change requires sustained commitment to employing the best policy tools available to maximize investments in the technologies of the future.
That’s where the current legislation, in the form of AB 398 and AB 617, comes in. Taken together, the bills cut greenhouse gas emissions and protect air quality. The package also sends a strong market signal that the state is committed to continuing its clean-tech leadership.
This is critical as market and regulatory certainty gives business the confidence it needs to keep our state’s clean economy growing. Without this, our thriving clean-tech sector risks losing ground.
But it’s more than just clean-tech. We also shouldn’t penalize other businesses that have made substantial investments in order to make their operations cleaner and more efficient. Businesses all around our state depend on stable and long-term price signals to continue investments and grow jobs.
That’s why the Silicon Valley Leadership Group supports the bill package.
As with any complicated policy, the devil is in the details, and controversy is inevitable. Getting durable and broadly-supported agreement requires everyone give a little.
There’s been a lot of talk that the bills somehow represent a giveaway to the fossil fuel industry. We respectfully disagree. These bills propose real restrictions on oil companies, and would put an end to the practice of allowing refineries and other large polluters to operate out-of-date equipment.
They would strengthen enforcement tools to hold polluters accountable. And they propose measures to address air pollution in communities most affected by poor air quality, and dedicate funding to that effort.
If we do not move forward on this package, California risks losing its international economic advantage, and we risk subjecting communities around our state to some of the worst air quality in the country. That would be a terrible mistake.
We made a promise to the world to lead on global warming, and a pledge to our communities to address the pollution that fouls their air. It is time our leaders in Sacramento step forward to honor both commitments.
Mike Mielke is Sr. Vice President, Energy and Environment of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. He wrote this for The Mercury News.
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